Cry of the Kalahari

Owens, Mark and Delia. Cry of the Kalahari: Seven Years in Africa’s Last Great Wilderness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Press, 1984.

Reason read: Mark and Delia Owens were married in the month of December. Read this in honor of their anniversary.

In 1974 Mark and Delia headed to Africa to start a research project just one year after their wedding day. Cry of the Kalahari is the story of their seven years in the Kalahari Desert. Taking turns, they share their experiences living with brown hyenas, lion prides, and unpredictable jackals, among many other animals. Because most of the animals have never seen humans before they are neither threatened or antagonized by Mark and Delia’s presence. At face value, Cry of the Kalahari is romantic and idealistic.

Admittedly, I have a few issues with Cry of the Kalahari, beginning with the trivial. One, how many times they mentioned the temperatures being 120 degrees in the shade. You are in the Kalahari desert! What did you expect?
Two, their so-called research. They went to Kalahari not really sure what they wanted to work on. When they discovered there was little known about the brown hyena they set about to learn all they could about the species, then they added jackals, and yet after Bones, a male lion, was murdered by hunters they changed their focus to protecting all wildlife of the Kalahari. By the end of the book their focus had widened to include wildebeest. How they received funding for such vague and vast research is beyond me. However, the couple is quick to point out Cry of the Kalahari is not detailed report of their research. That will show up elsewhere they promised.
My third issue is probably the most personal. They claimed over and over they didn’t want to interfere with the wildlife because it would change the validity of their research. They cried as animals starved to death outside their food-laden tent. Yet they had no problem performing a makeshift surgery on Bones, a lion who had broken his leg, or smearing motor oil on Blue, another lion who suffered from parasites. Most likely both of these animals would have died without human intervention. Essentially, the Owenes actions disrupted the circle of life in the Kalahari.

As an aside, the description of the cheetah hitting the wire fence at 70 miles an hour is heart breaking.

Author(s) fact(s): The Owenses are no strangers to the media spotlight. They have been on numerous talk shows. 

Book trivia: there is a generous selection of color photographs in Cry of the Kalahari, along with a smaller section of black and whites.

Nancy said: Pearl was actually talking about another book written by the Owenses when she mentioned Cry. Interestingly enough, in relation to Cry Pearl said Mark and Delia were “expelled from Botswana” because of this book (Book Lust To Go p 267).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Zambia” (p 266). Confessional: I deleted Cry Of the Kalahari from the true list of books I needed to read for the Challenge because Cry does not take place in Zambia.


Subtle Knife

Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. Scholastic UK, 2007.
Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. New York: Listening Library, 2000.

Reason read: to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month.

In The Golden Compass Pullman introduced his readers to the possibility of more than one universe. He hinted there were actually three – the one we were in currently, a completely different universe and a third being a combination of the two. In The Subtle Knife we experience those different worlds first hand as Lyra and her new friend, Will Parry, move between them to escape their enemies. In The Golden Compass readers were also introduced to daemons. Now, we learn that people without daemons are without free will. They lack fear and imagination so they make perfect soldiers for the evil Mrs. Coulter. In addition to Mrs. Coulter, the otherworld of Cittagazze hides other enemies. Soul-eating Specters haunt the streets while children run wild without daemons or parents and rule Lord-of-the-Flies style. 
As Lyra and Will travel from world to world they discover the Subtle Knife, a blade that can cut through anything. It’s power has yet to be fully understood.

Author fact: Pullman helped perform the audio version of The Subtle Knife.

Book Audio trivia: The Subtle Knife won an Audie Award in 2000. 

Nancy said: The Subtle Knife is an “epic battle btween good and evil” (Book Lust p 209).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 209).


Stet: a Memoir

Athill, Diana. Stet: a Memoir. New York: Grove Press, 2000.

Reason read: Read in honor of Athill’s birth month being in December.

In the editing world, stet means “let it stand” when a copy-editor wants to rescue a deletion.
To explain this book, here are Athill’s own words, “All this book is, is the story of one old ex-editor who imagines that she will feel a little less dead if a few people read it” (p 5).
The first part of Stet reads like any other job related memoir, “here is how I came into my occupation and kept it for nearly fifty years.” Athill is careful to keep her private life out of the equation until she gets to part two. Here she dishes about her favorite authors who became quasi friends in the process. The story of Jean Rhys sadden me the most.
Confessional – the didactic history of the Caribbean Dominica bored me just a little.

Quotes I liked, “Even now I would rather turn and walk away than risk my voice going shrill and my face going red as I slither into sickening humiliation of undercutting my own justified anger by my own idiotic ineptitude” (p 58) and  “Jean has been right – she was the only person who could make sense of the amazing muddle seething in those bags” (p 165).

Author fact: a Google search of Diana Athill’s name told me Athill will be 101 years old at her next birthday (on the 21st).

Book trivia: Sadly, there are no photographs in Stet.

Nancy said: the only thing Pearl said was Stet is an “interesting book about [Athill’s] career in the publishing industry” (p 163).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Me, Me, Me: Autobiographies and Memoirs” (p 163).


Squelched

Beard, Terry. Squelched. Hybrid Global Publishing, 2018.

Reason read: as a member of LibraryThing’s Early Review program, this is the pick for September.

Terry Beard’s Squelched spends a great deal of time explaining how his voice was silenced (squelched) during his formative years. Grade by grade, he cites examples of all the times he had been a victim of domestic violence. From his grandmother telling him he shouldn’t be a lawyer to his parents not buying him the newest and fashionable of clothes. It gets a little tiresome to hear about the kids who had it better than he because, according to Beard, rich kids didn’t have the traits of compassion and kindness. Every time he was put down he never tried to prove anyone wrong. He lived down to their low expectations of him, describing his attitude as “rock and roll.”

A smaller issue was Beard’s timeline. It moved around a lot. For example, in the fifth grade chapter he talks about getting married, flying to Mexico City as a 12 year old, and driving a car even though he felt like a clown driving around in his parent’s station wagon. 

Pet peeve: Beard’s pity-me childish attitude during Part One. He was constantly talking about his economic need. He sniveled about not being first string on the baseball field. He was a “bad boy” for being benched, but never mentioned if he had any talent. He bellyached when he didn’t have his grandmother to do his laundry or access to grandpa’s liquor hidden in the garage. His first mother-in-law’s one redeeming quality was that she smoked like President Roosevelt. His detailing of the formative years inched along while ten years of married were barely mentioned, probably because he subsequently got a divorce. He spent 84 pages on examples of how his was voice “squelched” and only 52 on how he found his voice. But, those 52 pages were the most entertaining.

One last comment is out of confusion. The last section of Squelched is titled “Speeches: A Sampling of Speeches Delivered at a Variety of Venues” and yet, the first, “Wet ‘n Wild” does not seem like a speech he would deliver. Would Beard really tell an audience Miss D.’s butt is bigger than the state of New York? I was a little confused.

Book trivia: Do not think of this book as a self-help, instructional guide to becoming a better public speaker. There is very little universal advice worth sharing to make this a guide for the masses. Even through the subtitle is directed at you, this is more of a memoir than anything else.

Bottom line: I had a hard time reading Squelched. Where Beard saw negativity I saw tough love. When people questioned him about his business ventures (“How will you make this work?”) the queries were not negative or positive. But Beard chose to see the questions as criticisms.


Golden Compass

Pullman, Philip. His Dark Materials Book One: The Golden Compass New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

Reason read: November is National Writers Month and this month we are celebrating a writer of fantasy.

The Golden Compass seemingly takes place in Oxford, England, but there is an alternate universe at play. Young wild child Lyra Belacourt isn’t afraid of much, especially an alternate universe. But in the beginning of The Golden Compass all Lyra cares about is getting into the Retiring Room of Jordan College, a room where, if women are not allowed, then children definitely are not. Tell Lyra she can’t do something and of course, that’s all she wants to do. She lives in a world where shape-shifting spirit animals called daemon familiars are the norm. Every person has a daemon and when they die their daemon fades away like a wisp of smoke. Lyra’s daemon familiar is Pantalaimon, a fiercely protective companion who can be a moth, bird, mouse,  ermine…whatever the situation requires. Pantalaimon won’t fix on a permanent shape until Lyra is older, closer to adulthood. But, I digress. Back to Lyra and the Retiring Room. She and Pantalaimon find a way to sneak into the room and eavesdrop on a secret meeting between her uncle and college officials. Uncle Asriel tells a tale of danger and mystique involving Dust in the North. Soon Lyra finds herself more than eavesdropping. Because of unknown talents she is pulled into a terrible world of evil scientists, kidnapped children, witch clans, and armored fighting bears. In The Golden Compass you will meet Gobblers, Tartars, Windsuckers, Breathless Ones, gyptians, Nalkainers, and many others, but it is Lyra and her daemon who will captivate you.

Author fact: Pullmann graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English. This is the third book in less than thirty days that mentions Oxford University.

Book trivia: Pullman took “His Dark Materials” from John Milton’s Paradise Lost in Book II. Also, The Golden Compass is the first book in a three volume set. The other two books are also on my list.

Nancy said: Nancy describes the overarching theme of Pullman’s His Dark Materials. She then goes on to say Pullman’s “finest invention was the daemon” (Book Lust p 209).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208).


Scales of Gold

Dunnett, Dorothy. Scales of Gold. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Reason read: to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.

It is now the fifteenth century. We are in the Age of Discovery. Nicholas vander Poele is in need of restoring order and fortune to his banking business. He and former slave, Loppe travel to Africa in search of gold. Also traveling along with him is Gelis van Borselen. If you remember the name from Race of the Scorpions,  she is on board, secretly seeking revenge. (As an aside, there is always a beautiful woman who has a love-hate relationship with Nicholas and seeking some kind of revenge.) Gelis van Borselen’s sister, Katelina, was killed in The Race of the Scorpions. It was mentioned earlier that whenever Nicholas is ill and feverish he spills secrets. This time, struggling with a swamp-induced illness Nicholas tells Gelis he is the father of her sister’s child. This changes the course of their relationship. Of course it does.

Underlying all the adventure and violence is Dunnett’s sly humor. She gives this comedy to Scales of Gold in the form of witty repartee. When Nicholas asks Gregorio if anyone has tried to kill him lately, Gregorio replies, “I suffer from overwork and neglect but apart from that, no” (p 8).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through Fiction” (p 79).


Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love

Malone, Michael. Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991.

Reason read: Malone celebrates his birthday in November. Read in his honor.

Meet Theo Ryan, the product of the union between a famous actor and singer. Despite his parents’s lime lights, all he wants to do is quietly teach Renaissance drama at a North Carolina university and write in his spare time. All that goes out the window when he agrees to write the authorized biography for Joshua “Ford” Rexford, an insanely popular playwright, womanizer and drunk. Nothing about Theo Ryan’s life will ever be the same after Rexford infiltrates his quiet existence. Suddenly, Theo is an actor, a singer, and he’s about to unleash his own work of art on the world, a fantastic play he’s kept private for years…
Quote I liked, “Atop the Coolidge Building Dean Buddy Tupper, Jr. stood at his post by the huge window, watching his enemies below” (p 94).

A digression: Winifred Throckmorton is a retired Oxford don. I just finished reading The Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris. Interestingly enough, my opinion of Ms. Throckmorton was slightly tainted by this fact.
Another aside, Malone has a character who raps his overly large ring on his desk to emphasize a point. I have to wonder if the writers from “House of Cards” stole that.

Author fact: Over and over I have read that Malone writes a completely different book every time. what you loved in a previous book might not show up in the next book, but somehow you end up loving the next book just the same.

Nancy said: Nancy did not say anything specific about Foolscap in Book Lust. In More Book Lust Pearl describes the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Southern Fiction” (p 222). Also, from More Book Lust in the chapter “Michael Malone: Too Good To Miss” (p 160).